Harold McGee published a recipe for alkaline noodles in the New York Times that introduced Chang and me to the idea that baking baking soda “changes the phase” of the stuff, turning it from sodium bicarbonate into sodium carbonate—an alkaline salt. Previously, we’d thought the only way to add alkaline salts to noodles was to use kansui (packaged alkaline salts from Chinatown) or the industrial-size tubs of alkaline salts used in food processing, so it seemed very unlikely that anybody anywhere could easily make fresh ramen noodles at home. But with Harold’s technique, that’s now totally possible (and absolutely necessary).
We knead our noodles more than Harold probably kneads his, because they’re meant to be super chewy and resilient in the face of hot broth.
These noodles are outstanding—I have a bunch of “fresh” packaged noodles sitting in the fridge, but none are even on the same continent as real, fresh alkaline noodles. —Peter Meehan
- 3 C (400g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 C baked soda
- 1/2 C (100g) warm tap water
- 1/2 C (100g) cold tap water
To make baked soda: Spread a half-cup of baking soda on a foil-lined sheet pan. Pop it in a 250°F oven or toaster oven for 1 hour. Store extra baked soda in a jar with a lid indefinitely.
Put the warm water in a large mixing bowl. Dissolve 4 teaspoons of the baked soda in it, then add the cold water. Add the flour, stirring and mixing to form a crumbly, pebbly alliance—not exactly a nice dough.
Turn that crumbly dough out onto a work surface. Knead it together, working the dough for 5 full minutes. (It will be a tougher sparring partner than any flour dough you’ve ever tried to make.) Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest at room temperature for 20 minutes, then knead for another 5 minutes. (You will curse and sweat.) Rewrap the dough and put it in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Divide the dough into five or six portions. Roll each portion out using a pasta machine (Italian-made is fine). Progress through the thickness settings one by one. The final thickness of the noodles is up to you, as is the width and shape into which you cut them. I like taking the dough to the second-thinnest setting, then either finely hand-cutting them or cutting them through the finer of the two cutters that came with my machine. Keep the noodles well floured to prevent them from sticking.
Cook the noodles in a deep pot with plenty of water. Noodles cut on the thinnest setting will only need two and a half or three minutes to cook. Check the noodles regularly while they’re cooking; if they stick together, rinse them under cold water immediately after straining them from the pot to stop the cooking and rinse off any excess starch.